Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My Last Ditch Effort for Listeners
I like strange music that almost no one else likes. That is fine, and I have dealt with that for about 25 years now. Since I followed Jeff Beck from the Yardbirds through his fusion work, which led me to John Scofield and Miles Davis, my tastes have veered way off the mainstream. It didn't take me very long to branch through the entirety of Miles' catalog, picking up a taste for people like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman along the way. By exploring some of these artists I discovered Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, the Art Ensemle of Chicago and more. By the time I switched fully to CD's in 1986 I already had a formidable collection of avant-garde music, as well as many mainstream and modern jazz artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Pat Metheny.

But along the way I found that I had fewer and fewer people I could share my music with. While I had no problems getting a few people to go see Pat Metheny Group, only my best friend went with me to Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, and only because he was my friend. No one really wanted to listen to most of my music - especially the really 'out there' stuff. One more artistic type in our house drew a cartoon of a saxophone being tortured that was hilarious, but also represented the general opinion of the sounds emanating from my room.

I knew my wife was not a big jazz fan from back when were were just casual friends in college. But when we started dating, we both had a love of music, so we would share and try each others' stuff. She actually liked some of mine - bits of Miles, Metheny, Coltrane, David Sanborn, Marsalis, and that sort of thing. The wild stuff she couldn't take. And that was fine - we had a basis. And she has always been willing to give my new stuff a listen - even if she knows she probably won't like it. My kids have never liked much, but will occasionally give it a listen - calling it 'Daddy's Crazy Music'.

So why do I bring this up now? Last weekend she suggested I put on some music and I mentioned to her - "it is interesting how much less tolerant all of you have become of my music: it is to the point where there are perhaps half a dozen choices of what all of you will listen to, and it just isn't worth me bothering." This touched a nerve, so at breakfast on Sunday she declared to the boys: Daddy is going to put in some music and we're all going to give it a listen.

So what to put in? That is a tough choice ... do I choose something neutral that I am only choosing for them hopefully to tolerate it, or what I want to listen to ... which would make them want to rip their own ears off? What I wanted to listen to was Miles Davis, but really something like 'Zimbabwe' from his 'scorched earth' period, which would have been too harsh, so I picked "The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions". I had played it before for them without any permanent harm, so I thought it would be safe.

So how did it go? Pretty awful, actually. My wife was the first to leave, going in to do some laundry and never really returning. The kids sat for a few minutes, then took care of their dishes and went into the family room ... and I put on David Sanborn and later Allan Holdsworth to have something that might interest them. At some point they went upstairs, and I was left alone. So I put on the Pangaea 'CD' (from my iPod) and listened to Zimbabwe while putting the new DVD player in the home theater center and putting the door back on (had to be taken off because the old system was too deep), and while I was still reorganizing things the kids came down and starting playing around, no interest at all in the music, and when my younger son actually started practicing piano on his portable keyboard, I thought 'enough' and switched it off.

How do I feel? A bit disheartened, although frankly not surprised. We all develop our own tastes, and my kids are into pop and rock, as is my wife. Perhaps someday they will have interest in my music, but they don't now, and it makes no sense to push it.

For the mean time, I'll put in Miles' 'Kind of Blue' or some Metheny or Wynton Marsalis or something similar when asked to share. Oh, there is one silver lining - I can get them to listen to the best and most important music of the year, Pat Metheny's 'The Way Up', without them knowing what they are absorbing.

Small victories.

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